When we hear the stories of people that suffer from agoraphobia we listen phrases like these: “Trying to explain to myself what was happening did me no good. I didn’t even know what was wrong with me, so how could I try to explain it to someone?” “You know, having a panic attack feels like you’re collapsing, like your organs are in rebellion against you, and that you’d throw them up”. “It is like been in a swing ride, waiting for things to happen. After waiting a while, it is happening, slowly you are higher and higher and becoming more and more frightened, but this is not a phobia, but your chest starts tightening, like going to explode. You want to jump, scream or whatever, but you can´t do that. You are tied and scared and there is not way out, not solid ground where to land.” “No one had ever loved me. And I’ve reached the point of not loving myself, for some reason. I wish I could have left my body and put it back, like you do with a shirt that doesn’t fit you”. There are more than 80 words and phrases that explain approximately what is agoraphobia, let’s see some:
- · Stasiphobia
- · enochlophobia
- · fear of being in public places
- · fear of going outside
- · avoiding crowded spaces
- · feel trapped
- · feel helpless
- · be embarrassed in public
- · fear of enclosed spaces
- · fear of standing in line
- · fear of being in a crowd
- · fear of leaving home alone
- · fear of movie theaters…
What is Agoraphobia?
In 1871, Westphal gave the name agoraphobia to a syndrome experienced by patients walking in public places and open spaces. This consisted of severe panic attacks, dizziness, fear of losing balance, nausea, anxiety, palpitations and trembling, and a host of other symptoms usually attributed to an over aroused autonomic nervous system. Westphal singled out anxiety as the cardinal symptom. Agoraphobia is fear of being alone in an open place or in public places. It is the opposite of claustrophobia. They may suffer from a sense of panic, dizziness, depression, preoccupation with irrational thoughts, and a sense of strangeness or unreality. It may have its onset after some major life trauma. For months at a time the patient may refuse to leave home. As many as six women in one hundred in some localities have been described as having the disorder. They may develop abnormal attachments to some person, pet, or even an inanimate object. They may find it more comfortable to be outside their homes at night, or while wearing dark glasses in the daytime. Usually after some months or years, the condition gradually subsides. People with psychological vulnerability interpret physical sensations in a catastrophic way.
8-12% of the population has an unexpected panic attack due to stress. Only 5% develop anxiety, thereby, having panic disorder. It usually starts between the ages of 18 and 35. Agoraphobia is twice as common in women as men. More than 90% of patients are women between 15 and 35 years old. India, China and the U.S. are the countries most affected by anxiety, according to WHO. In the UK, up to 2 people in 100 have panic disorder. It’s thought around a third will go on to develop agoraphobia. About 1.8 million Americans aged over 18 years, or about 0.8 percent of adults, have agoraphobia without a history of panic disorder.
- · Physical symptoms: chest pains, dizziness, and shortness of breath.
- · Agoraphobia often develops after having one or more panic attacks.
- · It can lead to various fears: fear of open spaces, the fear of places where escape is difficult, such as elevators, fear of going outside.
- · Agoraphobia can make it difficult for a person to leave their house.
- · Agoraphobia is often treated medically with antidepressants or anxiety-reducing medicine.
- · Most people with agoraphobia can get better with a proper treatment.
Currently the causes are unknown. It has been linked to the presence of other anxiety disorders, a stressful environment or substance abuse. But there several studies that are pointing to genetic, environmental, lifestyle and nutritional factors, besides other factors. The Agoraphobia is considered that is socially and culturally determined, but panic attacks and panic disorder are biologically and psychologically determined. A generalized psychological vulnerability plus a generalized biological vulnerability would lead to stress, which leads to “False Alarm” (somatic sensations) and this leads to a “Learned Alarm”, which then would be specific “Psychological Vulnerability” to anxious apprehension that will develop to Agoraphobia, Panic Disorder, or Agoraphobia with Panic Disorder.
Nutritional and dietary factors:
There is a correlation between food sensitivities and agoraphobia. It is a fact that agoraphobics often eat lots of sweets, use caffeinated beverages, and refined carbohydrates such as white flour products and sugar. In some cases, the agoraphobics develop shallow breathing and poor posture. After a food sensitivity is well developed, a major life trauma occurs and triggers the agoraphobia. One of the reasons for ill-defined fear is a sudden drop in blood sugar. That is why the people with agoraphobia or anxiety start to self-medicate with sweets or refined food. Refined carbohydrates promote wide swings in blood sugar.
Psychological vulnerability causes:
There is the hypothesis, that agoraphobia develops in response to repeated exposure to anxiety provoking events. The mental-health theory, focus on how individuals react to internal emotional conflicts.
Chronic use of tranquilizers and sleeping pills such as benzodiazepines have been linked to causing Agoraphobia.
One patient had her panic attacks and agoraphobia stop when a hair that had been resting against her eardrum was removed by irrigation by a physician. An ear exam may be rewarding.
A mild case of dizziness is sometimes involved in agoraphobia.
Lifestyle Treatment· It is necessary to discover any foods that the person could be sensitive of, and remove it from the diet.
- · We recommend a vegetarian or vegan diet (without any animal product like meat, milk, eggs, cheese).
- · Eliminate refined products like white foods (white rice, white starch, white spaghetti, white macaroni, white breads, and white sugar).
- · Eliminate caffeinated or decaffeinated beverages (coffee, tea, colas, and chocolate).
- · Deep breathing: consciously taking a deep breath, with a good posture at all times, taking a deep breath at the change of every hour. Clothing should be loose, especially around the chest or abdomen.
- · Consciously control the rate of breathing to keep it normal.
- · Hydrotherapy: Take hot baths daily for 20-30 minutes five days per week for three weeks.
- · When a fear or panic first begins to develop, stand tall, breathe deeply, and pray. Drink a glass of water every ten minutes for an hour. In most cases the fear will quickly pass.
- · A massage can be a great help. It should be a full body massage, if possible, or simply a foot rub. More than just psychologically relaxing, massage has a healing benefit for emotional and mental disorders that cannot be easily defined.
- · Physical activity or exercise to the point of sweating daily can do wonders for those that suffer agoraphobia. Step onto your garden or porch or into the yard and do a series of brisk calisthenics—running in place, high knee marching, jumping jacks, arm swings, leg swings, etc. Day by day try to go a farther distance from your house to perform the exercises.
- · Be regular in all your habits—bedtime, mealtime, exercise time, etc.
- · Catnip tea taken in the daytime can have a very calming effect. About 20 minutes prior to leaving the house take a cup of the tea. If a more calming effect is needed, use, along with the catnip herb, some valerian, hops, and skullcap, one or more. Kava kava and St. John’s wort have also been recommended for mild anxiety.
The strength of psychological and spiritual practices
Systematic desensitization and exposure treatment
- · The patient should go to the area where it is known that stress is produced and remain there, even several hours, until the anxiety dies down. Five to ten sessions may be needed to help the patient overcome. Begin with a routine of gradually increasing the distance you take away from your home, repeating each step several times until you can get down the driveway successfully. After, drive the car to the market and park in the parking lot before going back home. Next day, try to go inside the grocery store. Next day, try to purchase some items. It may take many tries before you can actually enter a building away from home. Continue doing this until you can buy your groceries and successfully store them in the pantry.
- · Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) done by a trained therapist, is one of the best psychotherapy known, evidence based.
The spiritual power
- · Many organizations have demonstrated the benefits of prayer—Alcoholics Anonymous, Overeaters Anonymous, Al-Anon, and many others.
- · Prayer is a powerful practice. If anxiety begins, switch the thoughts to a sacred theme. Millions have obtained help through prayer. It is a law of our nature that God is able to do for us what we cannot do, if we do not thus pray.
- · Learn to sing aloud. Outdoors sing louder. Memorize entire chapters of the Bible: Psalms 1, 91, 23, and I Corinthians 13, and quote these aloud when out-of-doors or fearful.
- · If an anxiety attack occurs say, “Stop!” audibly. Pray, and then switch the thoughts to a previously selected topic, such as quoting Scripture or singing a hymn you have memorized.
Some promises that can give you strength
Jeremiah 1:8 “Be not afraid of their faces: for I am with thee to deliver thee, saith the Lord. Psalm 34:4 “I sought the Lord, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.”
Psalm 18:2 “The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower.”
Psalm 7:1 “O Lord my God, in thee do I put my trust: save me from all them that persecute me, and deliver me:”
Psalm 22:5 “They cried unto thee, and were delivered: they trusted in thee, and were not confounded.”
Psalm 25:20 “O keep my soul, and deliver me: let me not be ashamed; for I put my trust in thee.”
Isaiah 46:4 “And even to your old age I am he; and even to hoar hairs will I carry you: I have made, and I will bear; even I will carry, and will deliver you.”
DSM-5 Beck, A.T (1976).
Cognitive Therapy and the Emotional Disorders. New York: International Universities Press. Lambert R. (2015).
Lifestyle Behaviours Add to the Armoury of Treatment Options for Panic Disorder: An Evidence-Based Reasoning. International journal of environmental research and public health, 12(6), 7017–7043. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph120607017
King James Version, Bible
For more information or special consultation contact:
Amazing Natural Medicine
Silvia Rojas Reyes,
N.D., Health & Life Coach
(Lifestyle Medicine, Harvard)
Phone: 44- 756 24 25 749
“Healthy Lifestyle Matters in Prevention of Diseases” SRR